The direct or indirect targeting of antibody Fc receptors (FcRs) presents unique opportunities and interesting challenges for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, cancer and infection. Biological responses induced via the Fc portions of antibodies are powerful, complex and unusual, and comprise both activating and inhibitory effects. These properties can be exploited in the engineering of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies to improve their activity in vivo. FcRs have also emerged as key participants in the pathogenesis of several important autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. Therapeutic approaches based on antagonizing FcR function with small molecules or biological drugs such as monoclonal antibodies and recombinant soluble FcR ectodomains have gained momentum. This Review addresses various strategies to manipulate FcR function to overcome immune complex-mediated inflammatory diseases, and considers approaches to improve antibody-based anticancer therapies.